Blended Retirement System offers options for financial planning

The Department of Defense is offering a new retirement system for service members that provides matching contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan and a monthly annuity payment for life upon retirement.

On Feb. 28 and March 1, Fort Meade’s Financial Readiness Program hosted a three-hour seminar at the Post Theater to introduce service members to the Blended Retirement System and Thrift Savings Plan.

Peter Deschamps, a personal financial counselor with the Military Family Life Counseling Program working at Army Community Service, briefed attendees about BRS. A briefing, facilitated by Thrift Savings Plan staff, about the Thrift Savings Plan followed. About 100 service members attended the briefings.

Deschamps, a contractor, has been tasked to educate service members about BRS, and assist service members and their families in planning for long-term goals such as saving for retirement.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act provides the DoD with the new BRS, a modernized retirement program.

Beginning in 2018, BRS will be available to active-duty service members, Reservists, members of the Coast Guard, and members of the commissioned officers corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Public Health Service.

Active-duty service members and Reservists who join the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018 will be automatically covered by the new system and will be required to take mandatory training about BRS in their first year.

Those already in service as of Dec. 31, 2017 will be grandfathered under the current “legacy” retirement system.

However, service members who have served less than 12 years, or Reservists who have accrued less than 4,320 retirement points, will have the option to enroll in the new system or remain in the current legacy retirement system.

The current legacy retirement system gives service members the opportunity to make contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan. However, there is no matching contribution by the federal government.

Service members also are currently eligible for a monthly annuity payment upon retirement after 20 years of service.

The monthly payment is determined by the number of years served X 2.5 percent X retired base pay (which is the average of the highest 36 months of basic pay).

BRS differs in that the DoD will automatically contribute 1 percent of a service member’s basic pay to the Thrift Savings Plan after 60 days of service.

Service members will receive this contribution regardless of how much they put into their Thrift Savings Plan.

Service members who have two or more years of service will receive a federal government match of their contributions up to an additional 4 percent.

Service members are fully vested in the Thrift Savings Plan after completing two years of service. The balance is portable should they transition from service with less than 20 years served.

A monthly annuity payment is also available under BRS upon retirement after 20 or more years of service. The payment totals the number of years served X 2 percent X retired base pay.

BRS also includes continuation pay, which allows service members to receive a cash payment in exchange for additional years of service, as well as an option for receiving a portion of their retirement annuity as a lump sum.

Service members who decide to opt into RBS are required to take the mandatory online opt-in training on JKO (course number P-US1332) and are advised to schedule one-on-one financial counseling after completing the opt-in training.

To schedule an appointment, call Army Community Service at 301-677-5590.

Editor’s Note: Information for this article was taken from www.militarydefense.gov.

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